Blurred Lines debate: Drawing a line under Thicke's lyrics

Banning Thicke's Blurred Lines is not a issue of free speech but of student unions catering to the most vulnerable in their communities, argues Rosie Collington

Not playing “Blurred Lines” in student unions across the UK is not going to ruin anyone’s night. It’s not enough to stop students attending events at union venues – as Freshers at Leeds University is proving. And it’s certainly not going to affect Robin Thicke’s pay package, if anyone was worried about that.

But if we allow this song to play in our union venues, we are sacrificing public spaces where students and others in society can feel safe and comfortable. Most people won’t shudder when they hear the words “I know you want it”, but for many students, the lyrics of Thicke’s number one hit are offensive and in some instances serve as a trigger.

At the University of Leeds, the union executive committee’s decision to stop playing the song in union venues has sparked debate across campus.

Although I was over the moon when I learned there was no longer any chance of being subjected to “something big enough to tear your ass in half” while eating my lunch, others disagree.

Among the arguments of those against the decision at a debate on Tuesday at Leeds university union was the song is supposed to be taken lightly, as a tongue-in-cheek humour maybe some of us just don’t get.

Previously unknown Thicke has himself stated the intention behind the single’s controversial music video was to make fun of “everything that is completely derogatory towards women”. The fact that the supposedly ironic nature of this song needs explanation indicates it does not easily come across as so.

The union at my university prides itself on being a safe space not only for students, but for their families as well. If there is one thing “Blurred Lines” isn’t, it is family-friendly.

And it’s not exactly female-friendly either. Or male-friendly. It’s just not a particularly friendly song, despite what its catchy melody and bouncy rhythm might lead us to believe.

“Ironic” or intended, the song promotes negative attitudes towards consent; as far as I;m concerned, it implies that “no” doesn’t always mean “no”. If the lyrics are a metaphor for sexual fantasy, as was suggested during the debate, it normalizes ideas that can be damaging and harmful for both sexes.

For victims of sexual assault, among the most vulnerable in the student community, the content of the song can serve as an unnecessary reminder of a time they would rather forget. A photo exhibition by Project Unbreakable shows a possible connection between the utterances of Thicke and his cohorts, and those of sexual abusers.

The unions which have taken a stance against “Blurred Lines” are not trying to censor what students listen to. No one has suggested we can’t listen to the song in private. Evidently it’s popular, and not because we all agree with what the lyrics suggest - most of us just haven’t been listening properly.

But unless we want to start playing ratings and warnings before songs, unless the music conglomerates start changing the content of their lyrics, as a student body we must cater for vulnerable members of our community and anyone else who could be affected, not just those who are upset that a song won’t be played tonight.

Who knows, maybe Thicke and that whole industry might listen to us next time.

Voices
Homeless Veterans charity auction: Cook with Angela Hartnett and Neil Borthwick at Merchants Tavern
charity appeal
Sport
Amir Khan is engaged in a broader battle than attempting to win a fight with Floyd Mayweather
boxing Exclusive: Amir Khan reveals plans to travel to Pakistan
Arts and Entertainment
Strictly finalists Simon Webbe, Caroline Flack, Mark Wright and Frankie Bridge
tvLive: Simon Webbe, Caroline Flack, Mark Wright and Frankie Bridge face-off in the final
Sport
Ched Evans in action for Sheffield United in 2012
footballRonnie Moore says 'he's served his time and the boy wants to play football'
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Student

Ashdown Group: Trainee / Graduate Helpdesk Analyst

£20000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A highly reputable business is looking to rec...

Recruitment Genius: Graduate Software Developer

£25000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Join a fast growing software co...

Guru Careers: Graduate Account Executive / Digital Account Executive

£20k + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Graduate / Digital Account Exe...

Guru Careers: Junior Designer / Design Graduate

£18k: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Junior Designer / Design Graduate to join...

Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

Amir Khan: 'The Taliban can threaten me but I must speak out... innocent kids, killed over nothing. It’s sick in the mind'

Amir Khan attacks the Taliban

'They can threaten me but I must speak out... innocent kids, killed over nothing. It’s sick in the mind'
Homeless Veterans appeal: 'You look for someone who's an inspiration and try to be like them'

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Could cannabis oil reverse the effects of cancer?

Could cannabis oil reverse effects of cancer?

As a film following six patients receiving the controversial treatment is released, Kate Hilpern uncovers a very slippery issue
The Interview movie review: You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here

The Interview movie review

You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here
Serial mania has propelled podcasts into the cultural mainstream

How podcasts became mainstream

People have consumed gripping armchair investigation Serial with a relish typically reserved for box-set binges
Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up for hipster marketing companies

Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up

Kevin Lee Light, aka "Jesus", is the newest client of creative agency Mother while rival agency Anomaly has launched Sexy Jesus, depicting the Messiah in a series of Athena-style poses
Rosetta space mission voted most important scientific breakthrough of 2014

A memorable year for science – if not for mice

The most important scientific breakthroughs of 2014
Christmas cocktails to make you merry: From eggnog to Brown Betty and Rum Bumpo

Christmas cocktails to make you merry

Mulled wine is an essential seasonal treat. But now drinkers are rediscovering other traditional festive tipples. Angela Clutton raises a glass to Christmas cocktails
5 best activity trackers

Fitness technology: 5 best activity trackers

Up the ante in your regimen and change the habits of a lifetime with this wearable tech
Paul Scholes column: It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves

Paul Scholes column

It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves
Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Club World Cup kicked into the long grass by the continued farce surrounding Blatter, Garcia, Russia and Qatar
Frank Warren column: 2014 – boxing is back and winning new fans

Frank Warren: Boxing is back and winning new fans

2014 proves it's now one of sport's biggest hitters again
Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture